Should I Worry About a Shark Attack?
It seems like every week I read about some scary shark sighting or attack. I love swimming in the ocean and take a tropical beach vacation every couple of years. How much should I worry about a shark attack?
Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
No need to fear, Anita. You’re almost as likely to be gored by a unicorn as you are to be swallowed by a shark. So why, you’re probably asking, does it seem like the subject gets so much attention? Well, one: sharks are big, scary, and have sharp teeth—and hundreds of millions of them roam the seas. Two: when you’re swimming or surfing, you can’t see them coming. Three: every shark attack gets huge press—no matter where in the world it happens—because sharks are big and scary, and you can’t see them coming. And four: have you ever watched the movie Jaws?
Let’s examine the numbers, though. In 2011, there were 75 recorded shark attacks around the world, resulting in 12 fatalities, according to the International Shark Attack File. About one-third of the attacks occurred in North America, where none resulted in death. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, about 21 people in the country are killed by cattle each year. Yet no one makes scary movies about cows.
Still, despite the incredibly overwhelming statistics in favor of your safety, no one wants to be the one or two unlucky losers of the shark-attack lottery. And for that reason, you should take these simple precautions whenever you’re in the water.
1. Don’t swim at dawn or dusk, when some sharks are more active and use their other senses to track objects besides their vision.
2. Don’t go into the water if you’re bleeding.
3. Try to swim or surf in groups because sharks are more likely to attack a lone object.
4. Don’t go into waters where there’s a lot of sport fishing because of shark attraction to baitfish.
5. Don’t wear brightly-colored swimsuits or shiny jewelry because they turn you into one giant shark lure.
6. And, quite simply, just don’t swim in any known shark areas.